New York City has ended qualified immunity, making it the first city in the United States to do so.
According to ABC News, qualified immunity is the practice of not being able to file a civil lawsuit against a government official unless they “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
“It makes it easier if someone has a concern to ring a legal action, but it does not put the individual financial penalty on the officer,” New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said. “It puts it on the department and the city, and that’s what I was comfortable with.”
Cory Johnson, the New York City Council Speaker, believes that the practice of qualified immunity stems from systemic racism.
“Qualified immunity was established in 1967 in Mississippi to prevent Freedom Riders from holding public officials liable even when they broke the law,” Johnson tweeted. “Rooted in our nation’s history of systemic racism, qualified immunity denied Freedom Riders justice and has been used to deny justice to victims of police abuse for decades. It should never have been allowed, but I’m proud that we took action today to end it here in NYC.”
Executive Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association and ABC News contributor, Don Mihalek, says that what is lawful may not be clear to the public.
“Qualified immunity is an essential part of the law enforcement profession. While it shields officers from erroneous and professionally damaging lawsuits, it does not erase responsibility. At any point in time, an agent determines the office was acting out of policy or unlawfully, qualified immunity could be removed and them exposed to full liability,” Mihalek said. “The public often confuses lawful actions by law enforcement versus public perception. What is lawful may not be clear in the public’s view. This is why an investigation is paramount to document the lawfulness of an officer’s actions.”